'Complete mayhem' for residents as river breaks bank flooding homes with water
Snow adds to weather chaos as flood-hit regions brace for more heavy rain
Published 12/12/2015 | 02:30
Homes in South East Clare near the Limerick border are under water after the Blackwater River breeched its banks.
Shortly after 1pm this afternoon a fierce swell came over the bank, which was previously raised by the office of public works to prevent flooding.
In seconds the river swept through the back of several homes taking residents by surprise.
Neighbours and friends are currently desperately trying to divert the river which is now running through the houses.
Local farmers are using diggers to dig channels and drains in the hope of protecting more homes downstream.
Caroline Micks, whose home once stood in the way of the river, and is now in the middle of it, said it was "complete mayhem".
"The bank behind the house here burst a little bit and the water was coming into then fields behind us, filling them up," she said.
Standing in her Wellington boots in several feet of water she added: "Then it swept through the fields and came back into the house, into the garden and down into the back of the garage."
"Within a few minutes the gardens were full and it was up to the house and that's it."
"I don't know after that," she said, shrugging her shoulders.
"It is just mayhem around here at the moment."
She thanked her neighbours, who are also flooded, for racing to her family's aid.
"In fairness, you couldn't ask for better neighbours. There is a huge reaction and hopefully we won't be hit too hard."
She added: "The river is right behind us. It's burst in a few places and there's no holding it back at the moment."
"The worry is the weather is set to get worse," she said.
The mother of three added: "It happened in 1995, but a lot of work was done on the retention on the bank, but this is worse."
"I've never seen the river this high before. After the bank was raised, you'd imagine it would have retained the river, but there's no stopping it now."
"The bank was raised a few years ago by the Office of Public Works but the level is so high at the moment it's just not holding it in."
We assisted two people stranded in their car in Roganstown. Please don't attempt to drive through any body of water. pic.twitter.com/FTtLiz3Lwz— Dublin Fire Brigade (@DubFireBrigade) December 12, 2015
Mother of two, Leslie Walsh Costelloe from Clonlara, was in Limerick City when the deluge swept into her home.
When she arrived home, she was ferried through the flood water on her husband Declan's back to survey the damage.
CORK: Spot flooding has been reported on local roads around Kiskeam. https://t.co/UFgDs7EeoG— AA Roadwatch (@aaroadwatch) December 12, 2015
"I was in town when my brother rang to say that it had gone into the house and into the gym. I thought he was joking until I rang my husband Declan and he said it had burst the banks," she said.
Despite the river which now runs through and around her home, Leslie's kitchen was still dry, and she immediately started cooking burgers for the dozens of neighbours that came to sandbag her doors.
"It never happened before and we are living here 17 years."
"It's in the house yeah. It has completely covered the concrete floor in the gym and out the patio doors. We're just trying to stop it coming into the kitchen," she added.
Snowfall has been reported in Co Mayo as well as several counties in the midlands. Heavy snowfall has also been reported in parts of the north.
Families in areas at risk of flooding have been told there is little option now but to "wait and see" as floodwaters are set to peak in the next 48 hours.
Meanwhile, Dublin City Council and An Garda Síochána are appealing to residents living adjacent to the River Liffey between Chapelizod and Island Bridge to remove all parked cars from underground car parks and low lying areas.
Although living quarters are not expected to be compromised, the expected rise in water levels may impact on underground car parks and cars should be removed to higher ground as a precaution.
Dublin Fire Brigade have responded to a number of incidents throughout the day as a result of the floods across the county.
Crews from Balbriggan and Finglas came to the rescue of a trapped car at the off ramp on junction 5 of the M1 motorway.
Two people also needed help from the DFB when they became stranded in their car in Roganstown.
The fire fighters also assisted at homes in Seville Place, Newcastle and Kinsealy.
Westmeath County Council held an emergency meeting today to discuss the crisis.
Over the last 24 hours, water levels increased by approximately 70mm and as of this morning, three houses have been inundated in the Athlone area.
In a statement it said:
"The Council is in receipt of an ESB forecast of river levels for the next four days and this is indicating that the River Shannon in Athlone will continue to rise slowly up to Wednesday 16th December 2015. The highest predicted level is 39.45mOD, which is approximately 50mm above current levels.
"The current flooding in Athlone is having a severe effect on a small portion of the town but the effects are localised and there is no impact on the town at large. All transport links, streets, car parks and commercial areas are operating normally and will continue to do so over the weekend and into next week.
CORK: Flooding has been reported on the N40 South Ring Rd westbound flyover at J3 Bandon Rd. https://t.co/UFgDs7EeoG— AA Roadwatch (@aaroadwatch) December 12, 2015
For the first time, authorities have sought help from the European Emergency Centre in Brussels, which has begun using observation satellites to assess the extent of floods.
The Office of Public Works (OPW) received unprecedented images of Limerick city, Athlone and Carrick-on-Shannon taken using the multi-billion-euro Copernicus system.
The system has pulled together information from multiple sources to give the most comprehensive overview available to officials here. It is commonly used for natural disasters or humanitarian crises.
Houses near Springfield, in Clonlara were overwhelmed by the River Blackwater this afternoon.
Several homes were flooded for the first time in their history (20 years), and many more are under increased threat.
Ballina / and / Killaloe (Tipp / Clare border) have also witnessed serious flooding.
Clare County Council is reporting that many roads affected by flooding during the day are gradually reopening as floodwaters slowly recede.
A number of main roads remain flooded including the R474 at Inch Bridge, Toonagh on the Corofin to Ennis Road, and the N85 Inagh to Ennistymon road (at Inagh).
The Council is warning householders, landowners and motorists in flood prone areas however, that high tide is expected 7pm which may result in localised flooding.
Sandbags can be collected from the County GAA Grounds at Clareabbey and at Ennis Mart.
Met Eireann has informed the Council that small amounts of rainfall are expected overnight but drier conditions are forecast for Sunday.
The Council remains on standby however, to deal with any flooding incidents should they arise.
Paul Moroney, Senior Engineer said: “We are advising motorists to slow down when driving through floodwaters on public roads for safety reasons and to minimise the impact on adjacent properties, particularly in urban locations. The advice continues to be not to drive through flooded road situations if in doubt.”
Flood updates from Clare are being provided on Twitter (@ClareCoCo), the Clare County Council website (www.clarecoco.ie) and on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Clare-County-Council-1613474145591459).
Farmers in Clare and Limerick are evacuating their farms today as they expect the weather to get worse overnight tonight.
Constant rain last night and this morning along with the announcement that the ESB were to increase the flow of water into the Shannon means that many locals near the river are fearing the worst.
Rain has eased off in Limerick and Clare since lunchtime today but Met Eireann are forecasting that conditions are likely to deteriorate.
Limerick city remains unaffected by the floodwaters butCastleconnell and Mountpelier - both in Co Limerick - are under severe threat of flooding.
A spokesperson for Limerick City and County Council said the situation in the city and county would be reviewed on a day by day basis.
Earlier it received confirmation from the ESB of its decision to increase discharge at Parteen Weir to 405m3/Sec.
This will be reviewed again on Sunday.
There are also other incidents of flooding on roads and motorists are advised to travel with due care.
Council crews are dealing with a number of incidents and will continue to monitor the situation throughout the day.
"The Council will continue to monitor the level of rainfall and potential flooding throughout the weekend and will provide a further update on the situation if considered necessary," it stated.
Council staff, assisted by members of the Defence Forces, are continuing to implement flood defence measures along the river bank and coordinate with local property owners at Montpelier, Castleconnell and the Mountshannon Road (Lisnagry).
Limerick City and County Council's Out of Hours / Emergency phone number, in the event of flooding over the weekend, is 061-417833.
Jim Casey, the OPW's head of Hydrology and Coastal Section, said: "We have requested them to monitor the floods as they are evolving now and over the coming days."
Athlone is still at severe risk of flooding with the chairman of the National Co-Ordination Group John Barry saying concern is growing that the defences used in recent days to keep areas dry may not cope with the rising water levels.
Asked whether any families had been advised to move out of their homes ahead of the expected surge of floodwaters tomorrow and Monday, he said: "It might well come to that."
Homeowners in flood risk areas along the lower Shannon River have been warned to expect even further flooding as the ESB increases the spill of water from Parteen Weir to ease the increasing pressure further upstream.
According to Limerick City and County Council the additional discharge together with the heavy rain on Saturday is leading to an increased risk of flooding, particularly in the areas of Montpelier, Castleconnell and the Mountshannon Road (Lisnagry).
One of the worst-hit areas in the lower Shannon is Springfield, near Clonlara in Co Clare where a number of families have had to leave their homes.
There are also other incidents of flooding on roads and motorists are advised to travel with due care.
The critical factor in Limerick, as in Cork, will be the rainfall tomorrow and on Monday when high tides are scheduled.
"We are not overly concerned by the tides; we have had much higher tides and have coped well before, but it's the rainfall and the water coming from upstream that we have to monitor," Mr Murray added.
If water levels on Lough Derg, upstream on the Shannon, continue to rise, traders and householders in vulnerable parts of Limerick and Clare could face a flood threat as severe as 2009 when, between Cork and the mid-west, over €200m worth of damage was caused.
In Cork, officials are hopeful that, despite the risk, Cork city, Bandon and Skibbereen will escape a repeat of the disastrous floods of 2009, 2012 and 2014.
Since Storm Desmond hit last weekend, just under 500 Defence Force officers have been deployed to help communities.
Personnel were last night active in six locations: Castleconnell, Clonlara, Portumna, Ballinasloe, Athlone and Claregalway.
Defence Minister Simon Coveney vowed that Army units equipped with high-axle trucks would remain deployed in support of emergency services.
"All State agencies will do everything they can to protect people and property over the coming days," he said.
Environment Minister Alan Kelly arrived back in Dublin last night, having spent the week discussing climate change at the COP21 conference in Paris. He will meet the emergency co-ordination group today.
Mr Kelly said the Government will “escalate” all efforts to protect as many homes as possible as the country braces itself for more rainfall in the coming days.
“It’s really about scale here, it’s just the volume. Last Friday, night was the worst rainfall I have ever seen in my life. It was incredible and last night was pretty poor and it really takes a few days for the Shannon to soak up all that water,” Mr Kelly said.
The minister said he will bring a memo to Cabinet next week which will seek to address the infrastructure issues causing devastating flooding in many communities along the River Shannon.
Temperatures are also set to drop today, prompting gardaí to warn motorists to take extra caution on the roads.
Meteorologist Evelyn Cusack said there was "a degree of uncertainty" attached to the weather system coming in but it was likely to "track across Ireland".
"There could be an hour or two of snow," Ms Cusack said.
The week ahead is likely to bring "waves of rain" that will be "quite heavy at times".
Mr Barry said that public safety is now the major priority.
He said people should stay away from rough seas and use detours rather than risk using flooded roads.